There are plenty of bogus holidays out there (looking at you, Aug. 27, aka National “Just Because” Day), but Colorado Public Lands Day, always the third Saturday in May, definitely isn’t one of them. This year, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), the state’s oldest and largest outdoor stewardship nonprofit, will honor the date, which falls on May 18, by hosting a family-focused volunteer weekend in the San Luis Valley for wilderness lovers ages six and up. The objective: building the first public trail in the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Sally Wier, the project’s manager, gave us some advice on how to pitch in and help preserve the natural resources that make our state such a beautiful place to live.
What is a Family Camping project?
“Out of the 60 or so projects VOC does every season, we make a handful specific for families and call them Family Camping projects. Many of our volunteer opportunities have minimum age requirements of 14, 16, or 18, depending on remoteness and difficulty. These Family Camping projects are designed differently—they’re open to anyone six or older.”
What to expect
“We’re going to be building the very first publicly accessible trail on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a stunning piece of protected land, and a wonderful resource for protecting wildlife, but right now it’s not accessible to the public apart from special tours. We’re going to be working on a trail that will be open during daylight hours, so people can enjoy it anytime. Kids 12 and older will be building that trail with the adults—using tools like shovels and picks to remove vegetation and create a flat dirt path through an area that is now covered with native grasses. Kids six to 11 will be engaged with our VOC Youth Program manager and folks from a San Luis Valley organization called Alpine Achievers Initiative to do environmental education programs, games, and outside activities. In the evening, everybody comes back to camp on the wildlife refuge. We get beer donated from a local brewery and soda for the kids and we have volunteer chefs who cook a huge dinner and dessert. We also do a raffle with prizes. We’re also partnering with the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which bounds the Baca Refuge on the south. One of their rangers is going to come up and do a night-sky program. We’ll have a telescope and an astronomy talk, and then we’ll all sleep in tents and get up to do it again the next day!”
How to sign up
“All volunteers have to register ahead through our website. Often our projects end up with wait-lists, so don’t delay! It’s free of charge. Once you register, you’ll receive information about what to bring, where to go, what to expect, all of that stuff. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Mark your calendars
Family Camping: Trail Construction & Habitat Restoration at Baca National Wildlife Refuge, May 18-19; voc.org/volunteer
Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado
Outdoor stewardship programs across the state